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Fire crews respond to smoky bathroom fire at New Westminster Secondary School

New West firefighters weren’t available to respond to other emergencies when dealing with bathroom fire at NWSS
New Westminster firefighters attended NWSS after a fire was started in a bathroom.

Sixteen firefighters and five fire trucks rushed to New Westminster Secondary School after a fire was reported in a bathroom on Wednesday afternoon.

Acting Fire Chief Erin Williams said New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services crews were initially dispatched to the school just after noon on Nov. 15 for a report of an “alarm activation”, but the incident was upgraded to a confirmed fire by E-Comm fire dispatch.

“The fire originated in a washroom, and was extinguished with a fire extinguisher by school staff,” he said in an email to the Record. “The fire caused damage to some contents of the washroom.”

Williams said the fire occurred in a second-floor washroom in the school.

“There was a significant amount of smoke generated by the burning material, which turned out to be a paper dispenser in the washroom,” he said.

After checking to see ensure the fire hadn’t extended into the building, crews used positive pressure fans to eject smoke from the building, Williams said.

“The ventilation system in the building was inoperable due to the alarm activation,” he said.

According to Williams, a confirmed fire, which is considered a first alarm fire, will have a response of 16 firefighters with five fire apparatus. He noted that a first-alarm response means that all available on-duty fire apparatus and staff are committed to the incident and are unavailable to attend other emergencies in the city.

“This fire could have resulted in extensive damage to the school and possibly put lives at risk,” he said. “Students also need to know that due to this fire, NWFRS crews were temporarily unavailable to respond to any other emergencies in the city. This puts residents at risk for a delayed response in what could be critically time-sensitive situations.”

New Westminster Secondary School principal Murray McLeod sent out an email to NWSS families on Wednesday afternoon to provide some information about the incident.

“I regret to inform you that there was a fire in one of our student washrooms this afternoon. The fire department was called and responded immediately,” he wrote. “Students were evacuated and remained outdoors until the fire department advised us that it was safe to return to the building. Students are now back in their classrooms.”

McLeod asked parents to encourage their children to speak with a member of the administrative team at NWSS if they have any information related to this incident.